Category Archives: Pipeline Route

Say Goodbye to Forests, Vital Habitat


The following editorial is reprinted with permission from The Recorder for January 24, 2018. The list of legislators at the end has been expanded to include those who represent Bath, Highland, Augusta, Nelson, and Buckingham Counties.

Say Goodbye to Forests, Vital Habitat

Readers may or may not have noticed the news recently about federal regulators giving Dominion Energy the green light to begin slicing huge swaths of mountain forests in preparation for building the proposed Atlantic Coast Pipeline.

We think it stinks.

Cutting an interstate-highway sized void through a forest means only one thing. What was forest is no longer forest. It’s now a pustule, a barren scar, open for all sorts of nasties to wreak havoc on water quality, bordering vegetation and indigenous animal life. It will never be the same. Removal of trees without sufficient reforestation has resulted in habitat damage, biodiversity loss, and aridity. It has adverse impacts on the atmosphere.

In its infinite knowledge, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission gave the energy giant permission to start felling some of the most pristine trees in the world before all necessary environmental safeguards have been put in place. The go-ahead signals a fait accompli that the proposed pipeline is a done deal, something already accomplished and presumably irreversible. We found it a little more than curious that FERC prescribed a deforestation method whereby trees will be cut to ground level. Root systems and their severed trunks wait in place until pipeline construction is authorized. No doubt the clear-cut method will lay out a scrumptious banquet for ravenous woodland beetles and bugs to begin their work of advancing a manmade process of natural woodland decay and decline.

There’s little wonder a company like Dominion Energy is eager to deforest thousands of acres. The return on investment for building a pipeline is so enticing — with federal approval comes a 15 percent guaranteed rate of return on the pipeline builder’s investment — that it quickly becomes evident why Dominion wants to build a lucrative pipeline project it could somehow justify.

The FERC tree cutting approval arrived shortly after Dominion admitted, for the first time, the real project goal all along has been to take the gas to South Carolina and farther south. The premise flies in the face of the case Dominion made to FERC during the licensing process, that the gas was intended for use in Virginia and North Carolina only. This is pure fraud and grounds for putting an end to the project.

The company’s first 42-inch diameter pipeline, the proposed ACP would feed the Southeast fossil fuel at the expense of permanently scarring our pristine Allegheny Highlands landscapes.

It’s a colossal experiment, a project on a scale matching few, if any of its kind. The work would include not only deforestation but mountaintop removal in West Virginia and Virginia. Dominion prefers the euphemism of “flattening.” Either way, some of our most visually appealing mountains would be forever scalped.

Forest fragmentation results from utility rights of way, and the ACP would be no exception. Utility rights of way span areas as large as 5 million acres in the United States. Some studies have shown that transmission rights of way harbor more plant species than adjoining forest areas, due to alterations in the microclimate in and around the corridor. Forest fragmentation is one of the greatest threats to biodiversity in forests. The problem of habitat destruction that caused the fragmentation in the first place is compounded by the inability of individual forest fragments to support viable populations, especially of large vertebrates. Local extinction of species occurs when there’s a lack of at least one fragment capable of supporting a viable population. The scar alters the conditions of the outer areas of the fragment, greatly reducing the amount of true forest interior habitat.

We think it’s a super sloppy job when Dominion leaves in place sites for construction lay-down yards following a major rerouting two years ago. Now on the table of the Highland County Planning Commission, Dominion land use applications infuriatingly remain in McDowell and Monterey, promising to completely tear up more than 10 miles of Highland’s arterial roadways, including U.S. 250 (where there’s a new bridge), Route 679 (Bullpasture River Road) and U.S. 220 (Jackson River Road).

We take comfort in efforts by citizen groups to police Dominion, which has long been cited for water quality safeguard violations in pipeline construction and coal ash pollution. As noted in a story in this week’s edition, the Allegheny Blue Ridge Alliance has launched a citizen initiative to monitor proposed pipeline construction activities. The alliance of more than 50 organizations in Virginia and West Virginia stated the Pipeline Compliance Surveillance Initiative intends to ensure strict application of environmental laws and regulations for the ACP.

We urge readers to let their feelings be known. The contact information for Bath, Highland, Augusta, Nelson, and Buckingham federal legislators is:

  • U.S. Rep. Bob Goodlatte (Bath, Highland, Augusta), 2309 Rayburn House Office Building, Washington, D.C. 20515, phone: (202) 225-5431, fax: (202) 225-9681, goodlatte.house.gov
  • U.S. Rep. Tom Garrett, Jr. (Nelson, Buckingham), 415 Cannon House Office Building, Washington, DC 20515, phone: (202) 225-4711, fax: (202) 225-5681
  • U.S. Sen. Tim Kaine, 231 Russell Senate Office Building, Washington, D.C. 20510, phone: (202) 224-4024, fax: (202) 228-6363, www.kaine.senate.gov
  • U.S. Sen. Mark Warner, 475 Russell Senate Office Building, Washington, D.C. 20510, phone: (202) 224-2023, www.warner.senate.gov/public.

Contact information for state elected officials:

  • In Bath, Del. Ben Cline, P.O. Box 1405, Amherst, Va. 24521, www.bencline.com.
  • In Highland, Augusta, and Nelson’s North District, Del. Richard “Dickie” Bell, P.O. Box 239, Staunton, Va. 24402, www.bellfordelegate.com.
  • In Nelson (except North District) and Buckingham, Del. Matt Fariss, (434) 821-5929, DelMFariss@house.virginia.gov
  • In Bath, Highland, Augusta, Nelson, Sen. Creigh Deeds, P.O. Box 5462, Charlottesville, Va. 22905- 5462, 434-296-5491, district25@senate.virginia.gov
  • In Buckingham, Sen. Mark Peake, 4925 Boonsboro Road, Box 172, Lynchburg, VA 24503, 434-455-3382, district22@senate.virginia.gov

ABRA Announces Pipeline CSI


Allegheny-Blue Ridge Alliance announced on January 22, 2018, the launching of the Pipeline Compliance Surveillance Initiative (Pipeline CSI) to monitor construction activities of the Atlantic Coast Pipeline. A copy of the press release sent to media in Virginia, West Virginia and North Carolina is reproduced below.

Additional details about Pipeline CSI, including how persons in ABRA member organizations can become involved, will be forthcoming over the next couple of weeks.


Press release from the Allegheny-Blue Ridge Alliance, January 22, 2018

Media Contact: Rick Webb, Dominion Pipeline Monitoring Coalition, rwebb.dpmc@gmail.com, 540-290-0913
Lewis Freeman, Allegheny Blue Ridge Alliance, lewfreeman@gmail.com, 540-468-2769

Citizen Surveillance Launched for the Atlantic Coast Pipeline

A citizen initiative to monitor construction activities of the Atlantic Coast Pipeline (ACP) is being launched today by the Allegheny-Blue Ridge Alliance (ABRA), a coalition of over 50 organizations in Virginia and West Virginia. The objective of the Pipeline Compliance Surveillance Initiative (Pipeline CSI) is to ensure strict application of environmental laws and regulations for the ACP.

“We strongly believe that the ACP is unneeded and cannot be built safely without causing permanent damage to the environment, particularly critical water resources,” stated Rick Webb of the Dominion Pipeline Monitoring Coalition, who is chairing the development of the new ABRA program. “We will continue to challenge the government decisions involving the project. But, with certain pre-construction activities already underway, citizen oversight is essential given the limited resources of government agencies that are responsible for regulating pipeline construction.”

Continuing, Webb said “the need for citizen oversight of pipeline construction has been made clear by observations of recent pipeline projects and ineffective government agency response to repeated violations and water resource harm. We have no reason to expect more from the agencies during construction of the ACP, given their failure to require submission of complete environmental plans prior to project approval. This deferral of critical review and analysis sets the stage for significant and long-term degradation of high-quality streams and groundwater supplies.”

The Pipeline CSI is gathering in-depth data and assessing the landscape the ACP is proposed to cross to fill in information gaps in official records. The effort will involve hundreds of volunteer observers in Virginia and West Virginia. The program will include extensive water quality monitoring and aerial reconnaissance. Initial phases of the Pipeline CSI will focus on mountainous areas of the pipeline route, where ACP construction threatens water quality in the headwaters of some of the major watershed systems in the eastern United States. Results from the information gathered will be shared with regulatory agencies and the media.

The ACP received a permit for construction from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) on October 13, subject to the project receiving other state and federal agency approvals. FERC approved on January 19 limited tree felling for the ACP.

Video: Beyond the Pipeline

A new video, Beyond the Pipeline, focuses on ways individuals and communities in Augusta, Nelson, and Buckingham counties are coming together to stand up against the ACP.

Lee White: “It starts on the local level. We have to act. We have to step up. It’s our responsibility.”

Richard Averitt: “We’re fighting an extraordinarily powerful enterprise. And really, at its core, we’re fighting things that are so hard-baked into our legal system, and our society, and the incentives that are there, that you recognize when you get into this that it’s not really about the Atlantic Coast Pipeline. That’s a symptom of a much, much bigger problem, and it’s going to take all of us to turn it around.”

Join us in the fight!

(A production of Amanda Joy Photographics, Conservation Division.)

Nelson BZA to Hold Hearings on ACP Flood Plain Crossings


The Nelson County Board of Zoning Appeals will hold public hearings on the Atlantic Coast Pipeline’s request to obtain variances for 11 floodplain crossings in Nelson County totaling 4.5 miles of floodplain, 3.5 for pipeline and one mile for access roads. Variances are required because, under Nelson’s floodplain ordinance, pipelines qualify as critical facilities whose construction is not normally allowed in floodplain. State law mandates decisions on variance requests within 90 days of the January 16, 2018, application date.

The BZA has retained David Shreve, former Campbell county attorney who has a private practice in Altavista, as legal counsel for the review, and has requested technical assistance from Draper Aden Associates, an engineering, environmental services and surveying firm with offices across the commonwealth and in parts of North Carolina.

The BZA’s next regularly scheduled meeting will be February 5, during which they will meet in closed session with Shreve and Draper Aden to go over application details. The public hearings on the variance applications will be February 12, 2018, 7 p.m.

During their January 16 meeting, the BZA adopted procedures for the public hearing: speakers must sign up to speak during the hearings and will be limited to three minutes unless they are representing a group, in which case they have five minutes to speak. At Shreve’s suggestion, the BZA will take up and make decisions on the 11 floodplain crossing applications individually, thus providing a “clean record” for each application.

The February 12 meeting is currently planned for the General District Courtroom in the Nelson County Courthouse, but because of anticipated large turnout may be moved to a different site. Announcement of meeting site will be included in public notices posted in the Nelson County Times and on the county website. Additionally, the BZA left open the possibility of extending the public hearings a day if there is not adequate time to hear all public comments.

A listing of the requested variances is posted on the BZA portion of the Nelson County Website.

Brief Radio Piece: Dominion and Scana

A 3-minute radio spot on WTJU on January 9, 2018, discusses Dominion’s purchase of Scana, and South Carolina’s potential as a market for and extension of the ACP, continuing from the NC-SC border to Elba Island near Savannah, where there is a massive gas export facility. Remember that not only has Dominion repeatedly and publicly denied that any of the gas is for export, they wrote it into the Purpose and Need section of their FERC application.

Tree Cutting


Dominion wants to cut your trees. Dominion wants to cut your neighbor’s trees. Dominion wants to cut as many trees as possible on the pipeline path during the allowable time period (now through March, to protect nesting and migrating birds) – because their next opportunity would not be until November 2018. DEQ has said that under Virginia regulations some cutting may be allowed where the activities do not qualify as “land disturbance.” That means only hand-felling, no equipment or machinery – yet even hand-felling can cause significant disturbance.

BUT – Dominion does not have the required permits from North Carolina and has only a conditional one from Virginia. The projected date for completing the required studies for Virginia’s reconsideration of permits is March or April 2018, after the allowable tree felling period has ended.

Here’s a re-post of an article from September 2017 that spells out the mess early tree-cutting has caused for Pennsylvania landowners on the Constitution pipeline route. Half the sugar maple trees (550 of them!) on one family’s maple sugar farm were cut – and then the pipeline was blocked by neighboring New York. The pipeline company sued, and a federal court sided with New York. The landowner lost trees and half her livelihood for a pipeline that probably won’t be built – because the pipeline company charged ahead with having all the permits. A lawyer for the pipeline company said, “I think going forward, people will be very careful before they authorize either the taking of land or the clearing of right of way.” (Dominion, take note!)

On December 27, 2017, Friends of Wintergreen and Wintergreen Property Owners Association filed documents asking FERC to oppose Dominion’s request to cut down trees. For more details on the tree-cutting issue, including Dominion’s petition to FERC, statements from DEQ, and submissions to FERC by several other organizations, see our December 21, 2017, article, What’s Next?